The 10 Best Short Thriller Books

short thriller books

Short Thriller Books You Can Read in One Night

You love crime thrillers, but reading isn’t always a priority when it comes to family, work, and recreation. Or perhaps you’re flying across the country and you want a book that you can read in one sitting. That’s where these books come in. Today, I’m bringing you a list of the best short thriller books you can read on a stormy night.

But these aren’t throwaway books. I’ll only recommend engaging storylines and thrillers with great characters. Maybe you’re hanging out at the beach and want a book you can finish in a day or two, or perhaps you just want to experience a new author and find out if their books will get your heart pounding. Don’t worry. All of the recommendations on this list will keep you riveted, eyes glued to the page . . . or to the screen, for all you ebook readers.

These crime fiction books are all less than 200 pages, short enough to burn through in one night, but long enough to hook you and take you on a wild ride.

Ready? Let’s go.

“The Grownup” by Gillian Flynn (61 pages)

  • Synopsis: A young woman pretends to be a psychic. Then she meets Susan, a client who claims her house is haunted. As Susan helps, a terrifying mystery involving Susan’s stepson drags her down a dark road. Download on Amazon

“We Have Always Lived in the Castle” by Shirley Jackson (146 pages)

  • Synopsis: Merricat lives insolation with Constance and their Uncle Julian after a family tragedy. When Cousin Charles arrives, Merricat must protect her family from the outside world and its deadly secrets.

Step into the dark and read your FREE thriller from bestselling author Dan Padavona

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“The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain (134 pages)

  • A drifter named Frank stops at a diner and and meets Cora, the owner’s wife. An affair develops. Together, they plot to murder the Cora’s husband. Deceit and betrayal lead them into the murky unknown.

“A Study in Scarlet” by Arthur Conan Doyle (158 pages)

  • Synopsis: This classic introduced Sherlock Holmes to the world. When Holmes and Dr. John Watson investigate a murder in London, they uncover a tale of revenge and murder that stretches from England to America.
Free Thriller Dead and Buried

“Dead and Buried” by Dan Padavona (112 pages)

  • Synopsis: In this chilling prequel to the bestselling Darkwater Cove psychological thriller series, Agent Darcy Gellar tracks The Full Moon Killer, a madman who murders women along the east coast. This thriller will make your pulse pound. Download for FREE

“The Hour of the Star” by Clarice Lispector (128 pages)

  • Synopsis: Macabéa is a poor Rio de Janeiro typist with a love for movies. She encounters a fortune-teller who changes her outlook, leading to a poignant, unexpected climax. What is the true mystery of life?
animal farm george orwell

“Animal Farm by George Orwell (89 pages)

  • Synopsis: Though not a traditional dark thriller, this novella is an allegorical story about power, control, and betrayal. A group of farm animals overthrow their human farmer and establish a society of equals. Their peace devolves into a tyrannical regime.

Speedboat by Renata Adler (192 pages)

  • Synopsis: “Speedboat” follows the fragmented life a New York journalist. This story captures the paranoia and disorientation of a city where crime and mundane life intersect. Adler offers a thrilling narrative experience through sharp observations and psychological insights. Don’t miss this classic short thriller book.
Darkwater Cove crime thriller


A killer is watching . . .

She’s running from a psychopath. And he knows what frightens her.

After she’s stabbed in the line of duty, FBI Agent Darcy Gellar moves her family to a sleepy seaside community. Living beside the ocean, she finds tranquility…until the police discover the body of a murdered woman on the beach. The village blames her son, a misunderstood boy with anger issues.

Is a serial killer stalking Darkwater Cove?

Darcy knows the boy is innocent. But how does she convince an aggressive police detective? If she fails, her son will go to prison, and the murderer will strike again.

Can Darcy save her child from the police and a bloodthirsty killer?

“The Pledge” by Friedrich Dürrenmatt (192 pages)

  • Synopsis: A retired police detective becomes obsessed with solving the murder of a young girl. His unconventional methods challenge the nature of crime investigation and force readers to encounter the concept of justice.

“The Lesson of the Master” by Henry James (94 pages)

  • Synopsis: On the surface, this is a tale about the mentorship between a young writer and an established author. But this novella explores ambition, betrayal, and the price of artistic integrity. The young writer uncovers unsettling truths about his idol and himself. A psychological thriller about the sacrifices made for art.

Short Thriller Books FAQ

Q: Are these books suitable for all ages?

A: Due to complex themes and mature content, these books are best suited for adult readers.

Q: Do I need to read any previous books before these?

A: No, these books stand on its own. You can enjoy each without reading any previous works by the authors.

Q: Where can I find these books?

A: Most of these books are available as paperbacks, hardcovers, and ebooks at bookstores and online retailers. Many libraries carry copies. A few choices, such as Dan Padavona’s “Dead and Buried,” are available exclusively from the author’s website.

Q: How long does it take to read a book under 200 pages?

A: Reading times vary, but most people can finish a 200-page book in a few hours to a few days, depending on reading speed and time dedicated to reading.

Q: Why are shorter books appealing for thriller genres?

A: Shorter books get straight to the action and maintain a fast pace. These short novels engage readers without unnecessary filler.

Q: Are these books part of a series?

A: “The Drowning Pool” is part of the Lew Archer series by Ross Macdonald, but each book can be read as a standalone story. “Foe” and “The Lesson of the Master” are not part of any series. “Dead and Buried” by Dan Padavona is a prequel to the Darkwater Cove series.

Q: Can I find audiobook versions of these titles?

A: Yes, audiobook versions are available for these titles on popular audiobook platforms. Check your favorite audiobook provider for availability.

Q: Are these books considered classics or contemporary?

A: “The Drowning Pool” and “The Lesson of the Master” are considered classics, while “Foe” is a contemporary work.

Q: How do these books compare to longer thrillers?

A: While shorter in length, these books deliver concentrated suspense and impactful storytelling, proving that thrilling narratives don’t always need hundreds of pages.

Q: Will I find similar themes in other works by these authors?

A: Yes, these authors often explore similar themes across their works, though the settings and characters may change. If you enjoy these books, you’ll likely appreciate their other writings.

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